RIP Professor Anthony Wigram (1953-2011)

Published: 1 August 2011 at 10:57

Professor Tony Wigram

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor Tony Wigram, who died after a year's courageous battle against cancer.

Tony was born in London in 1953 and, after attending St Lawrence College, completed a music degree at Bristol University. He qualified as a music therapist in 1974 from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He also completed a degree in Psychology from Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University, and later gained his Doctorate in Psychology at St. Georges Medical School, London University.

Tony was a visiting lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University here since the inception of the MA Music Therapy course in 1994, and was appointed as Professor in Music Therapy in 2006. He contributed to the establishment of the Music and Health Research Centre at Anglia Ruskin, and led the formation of an International Music Therapy Research Consortium, of which Anglia Ruskin is a member. The Consortium includes members from nine universities with leading music therapy research departments.

His early life as a music therapist showed him quickly emerging as a leader of the music therapy profession in the UK, and later worldwide, pioneering and developing music therapy treatment for adults and children with learning disabilities at Harperbury Hospital. He worked on establishing a music therapy career structure in the NHS, and his early work for the Association of Professional Music Therapists, together with his own clinical work and research, was instrumental in establishing the profession in the UK as it is today.

Tony was also Professor and Head of PhD Studies in Music Therapy at the University of Aalborg, Denmark. He was Honorary Principal Research Fellow in the Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne, Australia, and formerly President of the European Music Therapy Committee, and World Federation of Music Therapy. He was an Adjunct Professor in Music Therapy at ISFOM, Naples, Italy, and the Institute for Music, Art and Process, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. He was former Chair of the Association of Professional Music Therapists, and of the British Society for Music Therapy, and a Churchill Fellow of 1985. He was a governor of The Music Therapy Charity in the UK.

He was one of the most prolific writers in current music therapy publications, and wrote or edited fourteen books on music therapy, authored more than fifty articles in peer reviewed journals, and over seventy chapters in books. His research interests included: the physiological effect of sound and music; assessment and diagnosis of Autism and communication disorder; Rett Syndrome; methods of training and advanced level training in music therapy; and the documentation of methods and techniques in clinical practice in music therapy. He was also an Associate Editor with the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy.

His research work influenced research, training and clinical developments, as the list of publications below demonstrate, and as reported in a recent article in the British Journal of Music Therapy (Sutton, J. 2011 'A dialogue with Tony Wigram: considering music therapy and music therapy research in a changing world'. BJMT, Vol. 25 (1), pp. 8-31). Tony's publications span three decades and his work will be a legacy that future generations of music therapists will learn from.

Despite his illness, Tony was able to appreciate three special UK honours during the last few weeks of his life, and many more from around the world. These included an award from The Guildhall School of Music, where he trained and was a guest lecturer, a Vice Chancellor's Award from Anglia Ruskin University, for outstanding international contributions to research, and a similarly titled award from the British Association of Music Therapy for outstanding achievements to music therapy research. In November 2010, he also received an award for outstanding contributions to music therapy from the American Association of Music Therapy.

In addition to his phenomenal energy and outstanding musical skills, as a pianist and viola player, Tony was a brilliant academic, a generous and supportive colleague, and an inspiring man. He will be deeply missed by colleagues, students, patients, friends and family.

Professor Helen Odell-Miller